'Why don't you have a boyfriend?'
I recently moved back to Melbourne after 18 months spent living in London.
When people asked me if I was nervous about returning home after such a long time away, I had to admit that I was.
But not because I was concerned that my home town would seem quaint after living in one of the most bustling of metropolises, or because I feared being mocked for having adopted some strange turns of phrase (I now say 'half five', instead of 'half-past five').
My apprehension was entirely due to the fact that all my friends are getting married.
In London, nearly all of my friends were single - though brief trysts and hook up stories were rife - and saved their energy for blossoming careers and exploring Europe.
Back in Melbourne, engagement ring selfies on Facebook and 'Save the Date' cards were suddenly flying thick and fast.
And while I was thrilled for my friends, I felt a twinge of self-pity, knowing that my single status would be more marked than ever before in our Noah's Ark-like society where people must be paired off two-by-two.
How was it that almost everyone I knew had managed to find their life partner by their mid- to late-20s?
I've always been the perennially single one of all my friends.
Boyfriends have rarely lasted long, probably because I seem to have a penchant for flaky musicians and artist types, and in all honesty, this has rarely bothered me.
For me, a boyfriend was always the icing on the cake rather than the cake itself; the element that made life even sweeter when everything else - career, plans, my sense of self - was going well.
Like most people I want to fall in love, and eventually build a life together with someone I care deeply for, but I've never believed in having a relationship for relationship's sake.
I can feel frustrated sometimes at the ways being single affects my life, but primarily due to practical concerns.
Such as, if I want to avoid living in another sharehouse and find a place of my own instead, I'm going to be paying double the amount a couple would pay for a one-bedroom apartment.
Or, if I go on a vacation with a group of coupled friends, am I going to be find myself on a foldout couch or blow up mattress rather than a lush guestroom with a double bed?
Ultimately though, my unattached status seems to bother others more than it does me.
A question I'm asked with frustrating regularity is, 'why don't you have a boyfriend?!', typically voiced in an incredulous, slightly shocked tone.
The subtext seems to be something along the lines of: "but you're such a special snowflake! Can't you find anyone who wants you?".
It's intended as a compliment; it's really an insult.
The query's underlying implication is that the only reason a woman would be single is because nobody wants her, and it can't possibly be by choice or design.
And, in a world where women are expected to have a romantic relationship as their foremost concern, where being single is a problem to be solved , people can't help but look at you askance if you're in no rush to snag the nearest male who expresses even a fleeting interest in you.
"Why don't you have a boyfriend?!" tends to go hand in hand with that oft-repeated, equally frustrating refrain about men, that "all the good ones are taken."
The notion that some people willingly remain uncoupled or are waiting for something better to come along is a concept our society appears to struggle with. But at least men are given the dignity of the 'bachelor' image.
They're playboys, too cool to commit, too many wild oats to sow, no biological clock ticking loudly at them every minute of every day.
Single women, on the other hand, are painted as spinsters, sad and desperate and still burdened with those same 'maiden' names (aka, our own names) bestowed upon them at birth.
The truth is, I'm picky. Most people seem to misread that as "I'll only settle for Ryan Gosling." What it actually means is, I want to date somebody who I feel a mental and physical attraction to - and physical attraction is not code for 'ripped and looks like Alexander Skarsgard' by the way, and nor is it something men are expected to compromise on when looking for a mate.
The fact that I'm not willing to compromise on this is something some people find very confusing, and, dare I say, even confronting.
Friends have told me on more than one occasion that I should date someone merely because he asked me out, with no regard for my feelings on the matter.
But why would I embark on a relationship with someone who feels wrong to me, when it would serve no purpose except to see me with a partner (and would in fact distract time and energy I could better spend on focusing on being the best person I can be)?
Here's the thing. Relationships are an enormous commitment. They take work, and while I'm sure the benefits are plenty, I don't believe in settling if you haven't found one that will work for you.
Finding someone who fits the criteria - someone you find appealing both inside and out, with whom you have that inexplicable spark, that 'zing' of chemistry and connection - and who wants the same things as you at the same time and whose lifestyle and goals and dreams are compatible with your own - well, that's no easy task, but I'm not going to settle for anything less.
And even if that means I'm going to be sleeping on the foldout bed at the guesthouse indefinitely, I'm okay with that.
- Daily Life